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Plum Pudding for Yule

Updated on December 23, 2014

As much as I love the old traditions of Yule Logs, candles, apple rituals such as wassailling and evergreen in the home, don't give me presents, serve me Christmas pudding, mince pies and mead :-)

Christmas Pudding, lesser known as plum pudding today, seems to have have started as an English tradition. It's indulgence has spread across Wales into Ireland and to a lesser extent into Scotland where Black Bun is more popular..

Christmas Pudding, Plum Pudding, I am going to call Yule Pudding for the rest of this feature.

It's not too late to make your Yule Pudding and Black Bun After you read this, if you can mix up your pudding and bun within a couple of days it will still be stunningly good.

stir up Sunday

Yule pudding is traditionally made five weeks before Yule and Christmas Day. To keep this in Christian tradition, if that is your wish, make it on the Sunday before Advent. Around 1600 there was a Roman Catholic Church decree that such a 'pudding' should be made on the twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, if you wish to be precise to a rule.

That day is called "Stir-up Sunday". It is when each family member, especially the children in the household, give the pudding mix a good stir and make a wish and a prayer. Other folks may prefer to make their pudding after Samhain as a celebration of their harvest and abundance from the year.

From about 1800 the Church of England used to remind its congregation when it was "Stir-up Sunday", as they recognized this too, rebelling the Puritan disgust of the tradition.

The Church of England, and Church Of Ireland, had a ritual that spoke, starting with the minister saying loud prayer

"Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of they faithful people, what they plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works"

and the choir boys would respond

"Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot, and when we do get home tonight, we'll eat it up hot."

It's not too late to make your Yule Pudding. After you read this, if you can mix up your pudding within a couple of days it will still be stunningly good.

Black Bun is of a different tradition. The tradition demands that you make this at the end of June and store to mature for First Footers at Hogmanay. Most Scottish people seem to leave this until task until Autumn Equinox in late September or after Harvest Festival celebrations earlier in September.

.... But, like with Yule Pudding if you get down to making your Black Bun now it should taste darned good, and even better than the Yule Pudding.

There was a time when Christmas Pudding was for commencement of Yule on mid-winter Solstice Day, hence why I call it Yule Pudding, and Black Bun was for the other end of the celebration, Epiphany, but traditions changed ...

afore we had ye ol' Yule Pud

As with all things Yule, the first fragments of the tradition and recipes that eventually became the Yule Pud came from the Norse Vikings, and then refined somewhat by the Saxons.

By the 14th century, whatever the original recipes and traditions were had now settled into a 'porridge' style food called "frumenty".

The recipe for this seems like a soup of left over ingredients from making the earliest of mince pies. The ingredients included boiled beef with mutton leftovers and made "tasty" with addition of root vegetables, apples, other fruits that were handy or gifted, cider and maybe wine if some was spare or about to go vinegary.

Some say this was prepared as a fasting dish to east from Solstice until the celebrations and feasting of the sun returning of birth of Jesus three days later.

The ingredients that made this recipe, this food special, were the availability of imported spices. Including spice in food was something very special, something indulgent and abundant. Spices imported by this time included cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

first recipe in this book is 'frumenty'

and then it became a Pudding

By 1600, "frumenty" had evolved into a thicker meal dish that became known as "hakin" as it was heading towards something like the original mince pie recipe of the Saxons, also known as hakin.

To become a thicker meal dish the trend was to thicken the soup using eggs, crushed stale bread made into breadcrumbs and maybe thickened more with oats and barley. Spices were still an important ingredient along with exotic imported fruits.

After 1600 there seems to be a trend to take out all of the vegetables, add a lot more exotic dried fruit and maybe less apple. Cider and wines were replaced with porters and liqueurs like port and brandy. Meat was reduced and this dish became a dessert. known as "Christmas Pottage".

This was also the time folks were urged to follow the Roman Catholic Church decree that such a 'pudding' should be made on the twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, prepared with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles, and when every family member stirs it they must turn the spoon clockwise from east to west to honor the three Wise Magi as that was their direction of travel to visit the newborn baby Jesus.

The day of serving this Christmas Pottage also moved from Christmas Day to Epiphany for awhile. It was an important refreshment to offer to the priest and his company who would visit homes through Epiphany, January 6th, to bless each house in the parish, and probably to check the pudding was prepared according to the Catholic decree for puddings.

Like with many Yule traditions the Puritans eventually banned Pottage in 1664, declaring it as being a 'lewd custom'. The ingredients were regarded as too rich and indulgent making it unfit food for 'God-fearing people'.

then it became a Plum Pudding for Royals

As with all Yule traditions the making of Frumenty went underground into the rural communities who made it and celebrated it in secret.

The recipe developed further in the country and somehow in 1714 George I came across it and demanded that ti was something that was prepared for his Christmas Feast pudding. By this time the rural people probably gave it a name that was not fit for a royal table, so this is when it became simply Plum Pudding.

The Puritans and Quakers were horrified at the king's choice of food, and are said to have quoted it as being 'the nvention of the scarlet whore of Babylon'.

Goerge I took no notice of the objections and Plum Pudding became the annual Royal Christmas Dessert custom.

After the Declaration Of USA Independence in 1776, George III encouraged all households of Noblemen to prepare Plum Pudding for their Christmas Day tables, and eventually their servants, who made this, acquired a taste and the recipe was pushed out into rural areas too, and George III became known as the Pudding King.

then everybody was eating Plum Pudding

By the 1820, Plum Pudding had fully established its place on the Yule menu of most homes. Before then the pudding was something that could only be made on large country house ovens, but new recipes were being created that could create wonderful small puddings from country cottage hearth ovens. These cottage puddings were made for the festivities of the Twelfth Night, Epiphany, just like before Puritans outlawed it.

From 1820 onwards, when the plum pudding had become a cottage food there was an increasing trend to place a silver coin, ring or a thimble inside the pudding to bring luck to the person who's portion included the surprise. The luck was usually to be married before the next Yuletide.

The cooks of the larger houses and castles place adapted this tradition for the big Plum Puddings made for the gentry. They several objects into a pudding, if it was a large pudding.

silver coin - was a lucky charm for wealthwishbone - was a lucky charm for good luck thimble - was a lucky charm to protect from being poor ring - was a lucky charm for marriage within a yearbutton - the cruel one, that commits the finder to be single and poor for life,    so I think leave that one out.

Also by 1820 all of the meat in the pudding had been replaced with suet and generous portions of crushed nuts were now being added. It was called Plum Pudding as prunes, dried plums, were now one of the generous ingredients.

Also the amount of port and brandy had increased and stout was now being reduced, to make the alcohol drink taste stronger.

These Victorian puddings were also sphere shaped because of the wrapping damp muslin cloths that the cooks used to do before steaming. These days we are more familiar with the flat based basin shaped pudding.

Queen Victoria's husband Albert was also a huge fan of Plum Pudding as a dessert on Christmas Day, After 1840, when they became married, Albert's enthusiasm for Yule traditions caused families to move their Plum Pudding back to Christmas day.

There were also new recipes using a thicker mixture that was baked, the Christmas Cake. It gained popularity for tea on Christmas Day, as people were too stuffed to eat dessert after the main course. So in country homes the plum pudding was still retained for Twelfth Night

After Albert's death in 1861, when Queen Victoria mourned and ruled with melancholy, she claimed that Epiphany. Twelfth Night, Epiphany, had become a raucious indulgent and intoxicated celebration that disgusted her, so Queen Victoria ordered the celebration day to be banned. This moved the serving of Plum Pudding back to Christmas Day for everyone.

how we eat Yule Pudding today

During and from Victorian times more traditions were added such as setting alight the pudding with a small amount of brandy and decorating with a sprig of holly, two traditions brought over from the Yule Log to the pudding. The church said burning the brandy over the holly and pudding was an essential practice for keeping away witches and our temptations to return to old non Christian ways.

Yule pudding also became served with cream, custard or brandy butter, or a combination of these delights. Many people also love to fry up leftovers in a knob of butter, or just east it cold.

The pudding is first made any time from Samhain to the beginning of Advent to allow it to mature, but a late made pudding a week before serving still comes out tasting good. The earlier the pudding is made the more the ingredients marinate into each other.

Once you Yule Pudding is made, keep in cool dry storage. It does not have to be a refrigerator In fact, a cool dry shed is better and sealed well to protect from any vermin smelling and being attracted to it.

On the day of steaming for the festive dessert the pudding needs 8 hours of slow steaming.

You can make your own recipe with your own preferences and sometimes this is ruled by just what ingredients you have around you.

This will make enough to fill a 2 pint pudding basin.

Cook Time

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: up to 5 weeks with maturing

Serves: 6 to 10 desserts

Ingredients

  • 8 oz or 240 grams - currants
  • 8 oz or 240 grams - sultanas
  • 1 lb or 480 grams - seedless raisins
  • 4 oz or 120 grams - mixed citrus peel
  • 8 oz or 240 grams - breadcrumbs
  • 8 oz or 240 grams - suet *see vegan alternative below
  • 8 oz or 240 grams - soft brown sugar or some stevia or honey
  • 4 oz or 120 grams - plain flour
  • One large carrot grated
  • 1 oz or 30 grams - ground almonds
  • ½ tspn mixed powder spice: cinnamon - nutmeg - ginger - allspice
  • 4 eggs *see vegan alternative below
  • 2 tblsps molasses or dark honey
  • 2 tblsps honey or maple syrup or golden syrup
  • ¼ tspn grated nutmeg
  • One lemon - grate the rind
  • 12 fl oz alcholic drinks: brandy port stout Guinness
  • Pinch of salt or handful of dried dulse seaweed crushed

Instructions

  1. Make sure that all of your fruit is washed and clean
  2. Prepare to use a large mixing bowl, ceramic is best
  3. Also make sure you use a wooden spoon or two for preparing the mix.
  4. Into the bowl put all of the dried fruits, citrus peel, making sure that separates,
  5. breadcrumbs, suet or vegan alternative, brown sugar or honey or stevia alternative
  6. and the plain flour - and mix it all together in a clockwise direction.
  7. for vegan/vegetarian suet and egg alternatives click here
  8. Now add the grated carrot into the mixture.
  9. If you are using honey instead of brown sugar the grated carrot could have been
  10. pre-mixed with the honey instead.
  11. Beat the eggs well, or the vegan alternative and add,
  12. continuing to stir clockwise with your wooden spoon.
  13. Now slowly add your other chosen syrup sweeteners
  14. molasses, honey, maple syrup and/or golden syrup
  15. and keep that wooden spoon mixing clockwise
  16. and add the lemon rind
  17. Slowly pour in the brandy and/or port, about 4 fl oz
  18. and still keep stirring.
  19. Add enough of the 8 oz of stout or Guinness
  20. to make sure that the mix is moist and sticky without becoming too runny
  21. so you may not need to use it all.
  22. Then add the final touch of a little salt or dulse
  23. With all of the ingredients mixed
  24. do the ritual of moving your wooden spoon from east to west
  25. and make your prayer and wish.
  26. Then let all other of your family present in the kitchen do the same.
  27. Leave the mix to sit in silence for around 30 minutes.
  28. Grease your 2 pint pudding basin.
  29. Put the mixture into the basin.
  30. Cover with a couple of layers of greaseproof paper
  31. domed on top to allow mixture expansion
  32. then a layer of domed cooking foil over that.
  33. Use household string to tie the foil and paper in place
  34. and try to make a string handle with extra string too
  35. to make it easier to drop and lift the pudding in and out of the pan.
  36. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, larger than your pudding bowl.
  37. Gently lower the basin into the pan,
  38. making sure the boiling water does not come over the top.
  39. Simmer for eight hours, a timer clock will be handy for this.
  40. Check every couple of hours to make sure that there is still water in the pan
  41. and top up when necessary.
  42. If you have made a string handle, you should be able to lift the pudding out after
  43. the cooking time, assisted by using your wooden spoon.
  44. Be careful of the steam !!!
  45. You could speed this up with a pressure cooker.
  46. Use only the 5lb weight. Bring up to pressure,
  47. lower the heat and time for two and a half hours.
  48. Reduce the pressure slowly by running the cooker under a cold tap,
  49. remove the lid and use the wooden spoon to lift out the pudding.
  50. After Cooking, replace the soggy greaseproof papers and foil with fresh covers.
  51. Place your pudding in a cool dark place until Christmas Day.
  52. On Christmas Day steam your pudding for an hour another hour of steaming before serving.
  53. Many people fire up the Christmas pudding just before serving the main dinner.
Cast your vote for making your own Yule Pudding

lovely video to guide you through making,

some ingredients are different, so choose your favourite

storing until Christmas in the "old days?"

Based on known was of handling alcohol items in olden days I assume that after the puddings were steamed, they were wrapped in alcohol-soaked cheesecloth, stored in earthenware/crockery and placed somewhere cool.

I suspect more alcohol was added to seep through the cheesecloth during this period. Not only was this to add more flavour but alcohol is well known for its preserving properties.

It is also possible the puddings were sealed against air, possibly with wax, to prevent bacteria growth.

an excellent suet free vegetarian option

what say ye about Plum Pudding?

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    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      I really enjoyed reading this hub. I wrote one on the traditions and origins of figgy pudding (Christmas Pudding) and really enjoyed researching for it. You have a lot more information on the history and customs, so I found this hub very interesting.

    • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image

      LouiseKirkpatrick 5 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

      Blessed by this Squid Angel on a quest for Christmas Pudding!